Greetings from #PASSDataCommunitySummit day 1!

Before I get started, let me just say that I’m talking about my first day at PASS Data Community Summit, not necessarily the first day of the Summit. Although today is the first day of general sessions, the first round of pre-cons started Monday, and I didn’t arrive until yesterday (Tuesday).

Getting here was a long trip. I woke up at 3:00 am (Eastern time) to catch my flight, which left at 5:38 am. I had about a five hour layover in Detroit, where I got myself breakfast and took a bit of a catnap, before catching my flight to Seattle. My flight from Detroit to Seattle actually arrived almost an hour ahead of schedule, so there’s that! I checked into my AirBnB, dropped off my things, and headed to the Seattle Convention Center.

I didn’t expect much from my first evening here, but it ended up being quite busy! First, I tracked down my friend, Andy Levy. We chatted for a bit (while taking a little time to recover from our travels), and I suggested we go scope out my room where I would be speaking in the morning. It’s interesting, because since I was last here, there have been changes to this venue. First, there’s the name change. It used to be Washington State Convention Center; now it’s Seattle Convention Center. Second, it has expanded; there is now additional space where there wasn’t before, and my session is in one of them. I’m in a room called Skagit 3, which is located across the street from the main Convention Center. I just hope people are able to find my room!

I signed up to volunteer here, but communications have been both scattered and voluminous, and I’ve had a hard time keeping up with them. I did make it to the First Timer’s Buddy Event, which was an opportunity for first-time attendees to network and get together with veteran attendees (like me!). It was a great event, and tired though I was, I managed to catch my second wind here. I sat at a table with a few friends of mine and about five first time attendees.

It was here that I realized that I’d made a mistake. Those of you who follow my ‘blog likely know about my networking business cards. It was then that I realized that I’d left most of my cards back at my AirBnB (and I wasn’t about to hop back on the light rail to go back and get them). I did have a few in my wallet, so I handed out what I had.

There was also a networking slide presentation. I looked at the slides, and I’m absolutely convinced that Steve stole them from my presentation! 😀 Much of what was on those slides was material that I will be covering during my presentation this morning! With that, I did my best to promote my session! (I also saw my friend Taiob, who also told me he was promoting my session as well!)

The welcome reception followed. When I first attended PASS Summit in 2019, I was overwhelmed (in a good way!) by this event, and although the attendance numbers are down this year, I felt a very similar vibe this year! There were food tables serving a variety of items, along with drink stations (I’m generally not a cocktail drinker, but I decided to use my drink ticket on a Jack and Coke. Hey, if I have a free drink ticket, I’m going to take advantage of it!). I met up with a number of friends, including Ed Pollack, John Miner, Kathi Kellenberger, Grant Fritchey, Peter Shore, and several others whom I can’t remember right now. (Ed. note: I’ll come back later and edit this to include names I forgot and link their pages, if I can!)

I did have one lady at the reception tell me that she recognized me, and told me I was “internet famous.” Well okay, I’m not entirely sure that I buy that, but whatever! I also ran into a Kappa Kappa Psi brother from Northwestern State whom I’d met before, when I was last here in 2019! I made it a point to wear my letters cap to identify myself as a fraternity brother; you never know who you’ll run into!

I had signed up this morning to attend a vendor breakfast, but when I arrived, they had run out of food. I’m not going to lie; I signed up specifically for breakfast, not the sales pitch, and if there isn’t any food, what’s the point? Instead, I went downstairs to get the general continental breakfast that they were serving.

I’m writing this article from the speaker’s room at Summit. My session is in the very first time slot of the three-day session schedule for Summit, and as I write this sentence, I will be speaking about a little less than an hour from now.

Events like this are always a good time, and so far on my Day 1, this one has not disappointed! I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the week brings!

Well, I need to get ready to go do my presentation! Wish me luck!

Advertisement

May Monthly CASSUG Meeting, May 9

Greetings, data enthusiasts!

Our May meeting will be a hybrid event! We will meet in person at the Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce, 90 4th Street, Troy, and online (the Zoom link can be found on our Meetup event link at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/285622042 )!

Our May speaker is Monica Rathbun!

Topic: Always Encrypted for Beginners
One of the biggest challenges to successful implementation of data encryption has been the back and forth between the application and the database. You have to overcome the obstacle of the application decrypting the data it needs. Microsoft tried to simplify this process when it introduced Always Encrypted (AE) into SQL Server 2016 and Azure SQL Database. In this demo intense session, you will learn about what Always Encrypted is, how it works, and the implications for your environment. By the end you will know how to now easily encrypt columns of data and just as importantly how to unencrypt. You will also learn about the current limitations of the feature and what your options are to work around them.

For more information and to RSVP, use our Meetup link above! Hope to see you there!

Thanks to Datto for sponsoring our event!

April Monthly CASSUG Meeting #SQLFamily #Azure #SQLAzure @CASSUG_Albany

Greetings, data enthusiasts!

Our April meeting will again be online. NOTE: you MUST RSVP to this Meetup at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/285058597/ to view the Zoom URL!

Our April speaker is Rie Merritt!

Topic: Transitioning your On-Prem Database Skills to Azure SQL

Adoption of Cloud is at an all time high, with no end in sight. Managing a small fleet of databases on-premises was something you long ago mastered. In this session, we’ll cover the most common tasks a DBA needs to learn to manage in Azure SQL as well as they currently manage their On Premises installs. One of the great things about Azure SQL is that the skill set your team has developed over the years translates well. The tools and technologies you’re familiar with are all there. Let’s modernize those existing skills to make you a cloud DBA.

About Rie:
Rie Merritt has been working with SQL Server since 1999, when she started as a data analyst for a non-profit. She’s worked in many industries over the years including pharmaceutical, e-commerce, legal, financial, education and both federal & state government. Most recently, she was director of database management, Integrated Payments for WorldPay, Inc. She is currently Senior Program Manager with Microsoft Azure Data, serving as the MVP PG lead and as liaison between the product group and the data community. She is based out of Redmond, but works remotely from her home near Atlanta.

Over the years, Rie has done extensive work with the SQL Community. She was an MVP in the Data Platform for three years, speaking frequently at conferences across the US and moderating webinars, WIT panels and career panels. She has also served co-leader of the PASS Women in Technology Virtual Group and Executive Director of SQL Saturday Atlanta. Most recently, Rie helps run the Atlanta Azure Data User Group heading up Microsoft’s efforts for the Azure Data Community.

Our online meeting schedule is as follows:

  • 6:00: General chat, discussion, and announcements
  • 6:30: Presentation

We usually wrap up between 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM.

Please RSVP to this Meetup, then use the online event URL to join (note: you MUST RSVP for the URL to be visible). We will send out a meeting password as we get closer to the event.

Thanks to our sponsor, Datto, for making this event possible!

March Monthly CASSUG Meeting

Our March meeting will again be online. NOTE: you MUST RSVP to this Meetup at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/284474830/ to view the Zoom URL!

Our March speaker is Taiob M Ali!

Topic: Options and considerations for migrating SQL Server databases to Azure

Many tools are available to migrate your on-premises database to an Azure SQL database. Are you familiar with all of those tools, and how do you choose the best tool for you? How do you analyze and identify what objects are not compatible with migrating to Azure? Answer: It depends (of course) on the type, size, and complexity of the database you will be relocating.

This session will explore considerations before migration, appropriate targets, migration tools available, and the pros and cons of each tool. I will demo four different tools that you can use to analyze/migrate your on-premises SQL Server Database to Azure SQL.

At the end of this session, you will be aware of the various techniques available to analyze and migrate SQL Database to Azure and choose the best fitting one for your database.

About Taiob:
Taiob Ali, Microsoft Data Platform MVP, is an accomplished technical leader with a proven record of success. During his last 16 years, he has worked with the Microsoft Data Platform and MongoDB, both on-premises and cloud. His experience includes all three major business sectors: finance, e-commerce, and healthcare.

Taiob is currently working at “GMO LLC” as Database Solutions Manager, focusing on cloud migration, automation, improving, and streamlining operational workflow. He is a regular speaker at local and virtual chapters, Data Saturdays, and Azure conferences. He is a board member of New England SQL Server User Group, founder of ‘Database Professionals Virtual Meetup Group’, and organizer of Boston SQL Saturday.

Our online meeting schedule is as follows:

  • 6:00: General chat, discussion, and announcements
  • 6:30: Presentation

We usually wrap up between 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM.

Please RSVP to this Meetup, then use the online event URL to join (note: you MUST RSVP for the URL to be visible). We will send out a meeting password as we get closer to the event.

Thanks to our sponsor, Datto, for making this event possible!

February Monthly CASSUG Meeting

Greetings, data enthusiasts!

Our February meeting will again be online. NOTE: you MUST RSVP to this Meetup at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/283805310/ to view the Zoom URL!

Our February speaker is Heidi Hasting!

Topic: Power BI Building first report

You’ve heard about Power BI and now want to give it a go. In this session we will go through building our first report.

We start off with a quick intro into Power BI Desktop our tool of choice for Power BI report development.

Then we will go get some data and talk about basic transformation options to clean it up.

Once we have some clean data to work from we will add relationships and look at modelling.

From there we will create visuals to turn data into insights.

About Heidi:

Heidi Hasting is a Business Intelligence professional and former software developer with over seven years experience in Microsoft products. She is an ALM/DLM enthusiast and Azure DevOps fan and co-founder and organiser of the Adelaide Power BI User Group. Heidi is a regular attendee at tech events including Azure Bootcamps, DevOps days, SQLSaturdays, Difinity and PASS Summit.

Our online meeting schedule is as follows:

  • 6:00: General chat, discussion, and announcements
  • 6:30: Presentation

We usually wrap up between 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM.

Please RSVP to this Meetup, then use the online event URL to join (note: you MUST RSVP for the URL to be visible). We will send out a meeting password as we get closer to the event.

Thanks to our sponsor, Datto, for making this event possible!

January Monthly CASSUG Meeting

Our January meeting will again be online. NOTE: you MUST RSVP to this Meetup at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL…/events/283055730/ to view the Zoom URL!

Our January speaker is Grant Fritchey!

Topic: SQL Server Query Performance: Common Problems, Possible Solutions

Identifying which queries are running the slowest, or using the most resources is relatively well documented. However, once you identify the query you need to fix, what are you supposed to do next? This session will walk through a bunch of the most common performance problems and how you go about identifying those problems. From there, we’ll discuss some possible solutions for those problems as a way to move you more quickly to a more highly performing database.

About Grant:
Grant Fritchey is a Data Platform MVP with over 20 years’ experience in IT, including time spent in support and development. He has worked with SQL Server since 6.0 back in 1995. He has also developed in VB, VB.NET, C#, and Java. Grant has written books for Apress and Simple-Talk. Grant presents at conferences and user groups, large and small, all over the world. He joined Redgate Software as a product advocate in January 2011.

Our online meeting schedule is as follows:

  • 6:00: General chat, discussion, and announcements
  • 6:30: Presentation

We usually wrap up between 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM.

Please RSVP to this Meetup, then use the online event URL to join (note: you MUST RSVP for the URL to be visible). We will send out a meeting password as we get closer to the event.

Thanks to our sponsor, Datto, for making this event possible!

The joys and benefits of volunteering

This afternoon, I took part in an STC panel discussion about volunteering — how to volunteer, where opportunities exist, and so on. (A recording of the webinar will be made available; once it is, I’ll post a link to it.)

Those of you who know me well know how involved I’ve been with volunteering. To name a few, I’ve spoken for SQL Saturday and Data Saturday conferences. I’m part of the leadership team for my local SQL user group. I’m a section leader, board member, and secretary for the symphonic concert band in which I play. I play the piano for a local church. I even serve as a mentor for my fraternity and my alma mater. I lend my talents to a wide variety of groups and organizations, and it’s among some of the most rewarding endeavors in which I take part.

Why volunteer? You rarely, if ever, get paid for doing volunteer work, after all. Well, at least you don’t get paid with money. That said, you get paid in a number of ways that don’t directly involve money.

Let’s start with the satisfaction that you’ve gotten something done. I take part in a number of activities. All of these activities need behind-the-scenes work to keep them viable. Who’s going to do the work? After all, most of these positions are not paid, full-time opportunities, and tasks have to be done, including (but not limited to) organizing meetings, finding meeting or event space, scheduling, publicizing events, taking care of participants, paying any necessary bills or fees, and so on. Someone has to do the work. More often than not, that work is performed by volunteers.

Do you want to learn something new, or gain a new skill? Volunteering is a great way to do it. These groups all need tasks to be done, and volunteering is a relatively low-risk way to get experience with those tasks. It becomes a win-win for everyone; you gain new experience, and a group gets their tasks done.

That said, keep in mind that once you take on a task, you also take on a responsibility. Groups look to make sure work is performed, and once you volunteer to do that work, they are counting on you to make sure it gets done. Even if you’re not getting paid to perform the work, any volunteer opportunity should be treated with the same responsibility and respect as a job.

As with any job, you might struggle if you’ve never done it before or are unsure as to what to do. Treat it as you would any job. Use resources at your disposal (e.g. the internet) to get it done. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling. And don’t be afraid to say no. Volunteering should be a rewarding, even fun, experience. If you find that you’re frustrated or overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to either turn down the opportunity or pass it off to someone who can get it done. It isn’t worth the stress.

I mentioned above that volunteers don’t get directly paid with money. Indirectly, however, is another story! If you’re looking for work experience, volunteer work looks great on a resume! Maybe you built and maintained a group’s website, managed their finances, taught constituents, organized events, or served as an officer. Even if you weren’t paid to do them, it counts as work experience, which is something that appeals to potential employers.

And if you’re looking to meet people and expand your network, volunteering is a great way to do it. By volunteering, you interact with people in whatever activities you’re involved, which expands your network. Speaking personally, I’ve met many people and made many friends from my involvement with SQL Saturday and other related opportunities. This involvement has helped me to grow, both professionally and personally.

Additionally, when you work with others, you learn people skills, including teamwork, collaboration, communication, delegating tasks, leadership, and so on. And if you feel any trepidation about your skill sets, these people skills might just improve your confidence as well.

So if you’re looking to learn new things, gain more experience, and make new friends, consider volunteering. The rewards you reap can be life-changing.

December Monthly CASSUG Meeting

We are doing something different for our December meeting!

We will be hosting a forum with a number of SQL speakers in a quick-thinking “Whose Line?” format! The speakers will get a topic no more than a few minutes before they are to speak, and they will speak on whatever the topic is!

To join us for the festivities, RSVP at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/282546705/ (you MUST RSVP for the Zoom link to be visible).

Come join us for the fun!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit 2021 — the debrief

PASS Data Community Summit 2021 is in the books (the last day was Friday). It was fun, educational, and tiring (as many conferences are). And now that I’ve had the weekend to recover (I think!), I can write up my impressions of the conference.

This year, the conference was entirely virtual — and free! This enabled many people who likely could not attend previous conferences to attend this year, and I believe it was reflected this year; although I don’t know the exact attendance numbers, I believe there were thousands more attendees this year. This morning, I checked my speaker’s portal, and at last count, 124 people had viewed my session. I should note that that figure includes people who watched my session replay, as well as those who attended live, so that number could go up. Speaking of which, if you registered for the Summit, you can continue to watch most session replays for another six months. (I’m not entirely sure what happens after six months; presumably, you won’t be able to see them on the Summit page, but there’s a possibility that they might be viewable on PASS’s YouTube site. And if you happen to check it out, my own Summit intro video is even on the site!)

The committee who organized this year’s Summit did a fantastic job of putting together a successful event! Here are some of my takeaways from this year’s Summit.

  • I have a new favorite online meeting app! Check out Spatial Chat! The PASS Community Zone made use of this technology (and I was told that Redgate uses this application in their office environment as well). Many of us have gotten fatigued by the same-old, same-old Zoom, Google Meet, and other similar applications. Spatial Chat, however, is a game-changer. It simulates the experience of actually being in a room — for example, the closer you are to someone’s avatar, the better you can hear that person — just like standing adjacent (or at a distance) from an actual person. It allows creating separate virtual rooms and customized backgrounds (many people “sat” in “chairs” that made up the background; it also provided a guide for areas within a room where people could congregate).

    I was amazed at the tool’s ability to host a large number of people within simulated virtual rooms without any noticeable degradation in video or audio.

    I even set up my own Spatial Chat using the free version of the app (the free version allows you to create up to three rooms and up to 50 meeting participants). I intend to use this application whenever I have a need to hold an online meeting, or even if I want to hold a “virtual party.” If you’re interested in checking this tool out, go to Spatial Chat’s website, use the free version, invite a few people to join you in a meeting, and take it for a spin!

    Of course, I would much prefer an in-person conference, but this tool made me miss the experience of an in-person event a little less!
  • There were many chances to network! Networking is a big part of any conference. Spatial Chat, along with my presentation, allowed me opportunities to do so (and Spatial Chat made it even easier). My LinkedIn contact list definitely got bigger over the course of this conference!
  • Missed a presentation you wanted to see? Not to worry! You can probably watch it later! I didn’t make it to as many presentations I would’ve liked. That said, it wasn’t too much of an issue. Registered participants can go back to watch whatever sessions they want for up to six months. (I’m not sure what happens after six months; I’m hoping to be able to continue watching them on PASS’s YouTube site, but we’ll see what happens.) There are a number of sessions that interested me, and I intend to go back to check them out later.

    That said, I couldn’t go back to rewatch all the sessions (more on that below).
  • I had a great audience for my presentation! My job hunt presentation is, in my opinion, one of my better presentations, and I feel like it went well — definitely much better than my first two times speaking at Summit. (I guess the third time’s a charm.) I had a number of good (and even interesting) questions, which told me that my audience was engaged and interested.

Of course, like any event, the Summit wasn’t perfect (no event ever is). Here are a few things that I think would’ve made Summit 2021 even better.

  • Spatial Chat should’ve had a room (or two) for the Exhibitor Hall. This was one thing that I found disappointing. As is the case for other large conferences, PASS Data Community Summit had pages for exhibitors and vendors. But in order to get to them, you had to go back to the attendee dashboard and click the links for the Expo Hall. To me, that took away from the experience; it made for additional links to open, and it was another step you had to take.

    In an actual in-person conference, you have to physically walk to the exhibitor hall. Spatial Chat has the ability to simulate that experience, and I was very surprised that a room wasn’t set aside for the vendor exhibition, where people could’ve easily attended and walked in from the Community Zone. I thought this would’ve been a natural setup for exhibitors, and I was very surprised that it was not set up this way.
  • The Community Zone wasn’t “open all night” (or even “open late”). I will confess that I became somewhat addicted to Spatial Chat; it gave me the opportunity to reconnect with #SQLFamily friends whom I don’t often have the opportunity to see. The trouble was that it shut down every night at 6:30 pm EST. In their defense, PASS organizers said they had to do so for legal reasons, ostensibly to ensure that the conference code-of-conduct was enforced. But there were attendees from all over the world and in different time zones, and I’m sure they could’ve gotten more volunteers to stay online so the code-of-conduct rule could be satisfied.

    Speaking of time zones…
  • PASS Data Community Summit was a great event to attend — if you were on the East Coast of the US. In this respect, I was lucky, because I am on the East Coast of the US. The Summit schedule was very conducive for anyone in the Eastern time zone. But if you were in other time zones — especially in other geographic regions such as Europe or Asia, it wasn’t as convenient. I remember talking to at least one person located in Australia, and he mentioned that it was 5 am where he was located. It was nearly impossible for those people to attend many sessions, many of which took place while they were asleep. It also prevented people from interacting with other attendees. Networking, after all, is a major part of conferences.
  • Most sessions are replayable — but not all. I mentioned above that I can go back and rewatch most of the conference sessions that I missed. Most, but not all. There were several Q&A sessions that I found interesting, but unlike other presentations, the Q&A sessions can not be replayed. I realize that you can’t interact with a recorded Q&A session, but in many cases, the discussions that did take place were good dialogue, and I would’ve liked to go back to them, or even check out sessions that I missed.
  • I would’ve liked a better way to engage with my audience. Anyone who’s seen my presentations know that I like to get my audience involved. I like doing interactive presentations. I feel that they keep my audience engaged and interested. When my session was scheduled, it was scheduled as a pre-recorded session (i.e. I recorded my session in advance, my presentation was uploaded, and people would see my recorded session).

    After my experience with last year’s Summit, I found that I had an aversion to pre-recorded sessions. Since my last in-person SQL Saturday, I’ve spoken at many virtual conferences, and have never had a problem with any of them. I know that there’s a concern with problems during a live session, but personally, it’s never happened to me. This is not to say that I’ll never have a problem (hey, it happens!), but I feel comfortable enough with my session that I would much prefer to do it live. I think every session slot should’ve had an option of live or pre-recorded, not just a select few (in fact, I thought at first that that was how it was done, but that turned out to not be the case).

    Additionally, when I did my presentation, I had no direct interaction with my audience. I presented via Zoom while the audience viewed it on another platform, and while my audience could see (and hear) my presentation, there was no direct way for us to interact. People would post questions to a chat, and the session moderator would relay those questions to me. As I said, I prefer interactive sessions. Fortunately, this particular presentation didn’t require a lot of audience interaction, but if I did do one, it likely would’ve been problematic.

Looking at what I just wrote, I realize that I wrote more about issues than what I liked. This is not to take away from this year’s Summit experience. Overall, I thought Summit was very well done, and I’m very glad that I had a chance to participate. A lot of hard work went into putting together the 2021 PASS Data Community Summit. Many kudos to the people who organized Summit this year!

PASS Data Community Summit 2021 exceeded my expectations! I hope that I am able to attend next year’s Summit, which will be a hybrid event. If the 2022 Summit goes as well as the 2021 virtual Summit, it will be a great event!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit, day 1 #SQLFamily

PASS Data Community Summit is here!

I spent my morning getting my online profile and schedules set up, and trying to figure out how this online portal thing works! I’m also working on building my schedule. There are several sessions that interest me, but I need to pick and choose, since some of them conflict.

I also need to make sure that my own session is on the schedule! I don’t want to miss my own presentation!

I’m multitasking as I go through this. I did not take time off from work for the virtual conference (I did block out time to do my own presentation), and I will likely have the Summit sessions on in the background as I work.

I will be floating around the various online community rooms, so if you see me online, feel free to chat me up! I’ve already spoken with Andy Levy and Grant Fritchey this morning, and Steve Jones posted that he would be in the SQL Saturday room, so I will make it a point to visit him as well!

It’s not too late to register, if you want to attend! Just use the above link!

See you around the Summit!